Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Columbia River Power Marathon Race Report

Since we're working on two weeks since I ran the Columbia River Power Marathon in Umatilla, OR, it's about time I finally got the race report up.  

This race came about, because a friend of mine, Heather, had put in to run the St. George Marathon with her husband.  When they didn't get picked to run it I told her that if she couldn't get her husband to run another marathon with her I'd be happy to step in.  I was still coming off my high from winning Ridgeline and since we had never really done anything together, let alone run, I wasn't really sure if she would take me up on it.  She did though, so the task became to find a marathon in late fall (long enough to train for it) and on a Saturday, preferably within a reasonable driving distance from Eugene.  We narrowed it down to two (actually there might have only been 2 that fit the bill), the Bend Marathon on October 1st and the Columbia River Power Marathon on October 22nd.  Since Columbia River in Umatilla gave us 3 extra weeks of training and didn't start at over 3000 feet elevation and finish close to 4000 (like Bend did) we decided to go with it.

The day before the race, my mom came up (don't have a single picture of her, how terrible is that?!) and, after dumping off my kids that weren't in school with a friend (Thanks Lindsey!!) we headed to Umatilla where we stayed in the motel that housed packet pick up, a pasta feed and also boasted the start and finish of the race.  We got there in time to tour what we could drive of the course and check out the gravelly path that we would be running on for 10 miles.  The hills were a bit alarming... they were rolling and kind of big but we didn't let them scare us.  The pasta feed, on the other hand was a little scary... okay, not really but it left a lot to be desired, so we decided to take our chances with the local fare.  Umatilla is a tiny town so we headed into the "big city" of Hermiston where we were turned away from our first two choices to eat, no reservations, followed by a private party to which we weren't privy.  Our 3rd choice smelled a bit too fishy, so we settled for choice #4, a pizza parlor that boasted pizza, pasta and something else.  The only pasta they had on their menu was lasagna so we opted for bread sticks and pizza.  So much for our huge night of carb loading.

The rest of the evening was uneventful.  I painted my fingernails (which has become a racing prerequisite for me... this time I went with black), wrote out my fueling plan (another prerequisite), read for a bit and went to bed.  We woke with plenty of time to check out the breakfast where I grabbed a banana to go with my Clif Bar and snagged some yogurt for my mom.  I washed down breakfast with some water and ibuprofen and then chased it with 3 margarita clif shots as we headed out the door less than 10 minutes before the race started... sleeping at the start line was awesome!
 Thanks to Barefoot Angie Bee & the ladies at Glam Runner, I was able to rock the awesome green & yellow sparkle tutu.  Heather, being the good sport that she is, joined in on the fun and ordered a tutu of her own, "the punk rock girl".  As soon as we made it two the crowd, the comments began (all positive) and we were dubbed the two tutu girls.

There was a lot of waiting at the start.  They talked about the course, the security cautions for going over the dam and then ran through all the sponsors.  Then a local band played a song and encouraged everyone to sing along.  At this point I was kind of glad that I hadn't warmed up because I surely would've gotten cold.
The racers look a little bored... blue bibs are marathoners, pink the halfers. 
Finally, after about 7 minutes, we were off:
the guy in the half fanatics shirt ran Ridgeline with me... I referred to him as "maniac boy" in that write up... turns out he's a pretty hardcore runner doing crazy racing all over the place. 
I think mostly to separate the half from the full, the marathoners ran around a grass median in the road 1 1/2 times before heading off on the course.  Although it was a bit monotonous, it gave my mom plenty of opportunities to play paparazzi.  We're pretty easy to spot in our two tutus.  :)

finally, we're headed out to the course...
 Towards the end of the first mile, there was a pretty decent downhill and then we headed across the McNary Dam, which isn't usually open to civilians, and into Washington state.  Crossing the dam and running in two separate states are pretty big advertising points for this race.  Our plan for the race was to run the first 15 miles at an 8:34 average and allow a fade of almost 30 seconds per mile over the last 11 to finish under 3:50. Miles 1-3 splits 8:02, 8:07, 8:20.  We were going a bit fast, but after crossing the dam we began the "rolling hills" section, where we knew we would fade a bit.  We settled into a nice rhythm though and stayed pretty steady with 8:34 and 8:32 for miles 4 and 5.  At mile 5 I had my first fuel, a Chocolate Cherry (super charged) Clif Shot, which when combined with almost a mile straight downhill and an awesome story about genetics from Heather, resulted in a 7:55 average pace for mile 6, definitely our fastest for the race.  Miles 7 and 8 were pretty uneventful and mostly flat.  We got to run through a tunnel, which was pretty cool and kind of dark
and just after we crossed the bridge back into Oregon, shortly after mile 8, my mom was waiting to cheer us on.
we found that running side by side while crossing the bridge on the narrow pedestrian path was a little troublesome... especially when trying to pass people.  I'm sure we made quite the road block.  :)
Mile 9 was a nice flat stretch and took us through a park just pass the dam, up a little hill and on a stretch of gravel before saying hello to the 10 mile marker and goodbye to the half marathoners who went up the big, big hill towards their finish.  (Don't feel too badly for them, we get to run up it at mile 24 of our race.)  Also, at mile 10 I took the rest of my Margarita Clif shots.  They are really tough for me to get down, but I know the extra sodium is a huge help as I am very prone to leg cramps.  I don't think there is any way I could choke them down later in the race though.

Just past mile 11 is where we hopped on the Lewis and Clark Trail for 5 miles of trail running.  Here is what the course outline had to say (I have to give it to you word for word... it is that awesome):
"Aside from crossing the McNary Dam, running in two states, and returning along the bridge, this trail is one of the the hallmarks of this marathon.  Though challenging and rugged this gives you a chance to get away from the fast-paced world of everyday life and enjoy the beauty of the River, the sage, the basalt bluffs, and the divers flora and fauna unique to our region.  We hope you enjoy this u-close-and-personal-view of our region in its rawest form."
 I'm not afraid of trail running, in fact I prefer it to road running, however, there are is a huge difference between running on dirt/rock trails in the hills and running on sandy/gravelly rolling trails along the river.  It was hard.  Our pace dropped considerably, which wasn't something we had accounted for.  Miles 12-16:  8:38, 8:42, 8:53, 8:49, 8:54.  While running on the trail though, we hooked up with Miranda and Jay who would stick with us for most of the next 10 miles.  At mile 15, I had some more caffeine, in the form of a Razz Clif shot.  Towards the beginning of the trail, we joked about the "flora and fauna", towards the middle, we looked forward to seeing the leaders as they passed us on the way back (this is also where we learned there were only 2 women in front of us) and towards the end of the trail we looked forward to hitting paved ground again.  Finally, at mile marker 16, we saw the end of the gravel (for the time being) as we headed for a two mile out and back through Hat Rock State Park.  My mom was also a welcome sight.

Me... still all smiles, Miranda, Jay... a first time marathoner & Heather
 The out and back felt good and when we turned around there was a slight breeze, which felt awesome.  Before we knew it though, we were back to my mom and in turn back to the trail, which we really, really did not want to go on again.  Not only did we have 5 miles of hilly gravel running to do but at the end of it we had the dreaded "hill" to look forward to.

 There was an aid station at mile 18 just before getting back on the trail.  Heather stopped for water and I didn't.  Had I stopped I really don't think I would have gotten going again.  Meredith stopped with Heather and Jay went on with me.  Unfortunately Heather and I didn't manage to meet back up but she was surely reeling me in.  Jay was quite the conversationalist and the cheer leader.  It was his first marathon and he was super excited.  He was also a local cross country coach and seemed to know everyone that was running in the race and had positive remarks for every single person that we passed as we went back along the trail.  His enthusiasm definitely kept me going, but I secretly wondered when his energy might taper off.  At mile 19, he mentioned that he was now in new territory, not having run over 18 miles in training.  At mile 20 he was super excited but not saying quite as much.  I took another Clif Shot, strawberry, and bypassed the aid station at 21 since I had my own water.  Jay skipped out too, mostly because I think he didn't want to lose me.  I could still see Heather and Miranda not too far behind us running together.  I worried about not being with Heather, but we had talked about splitting up if we needed to and since she was at least running with someone I didn't feel too badly.  Although at every aid station they would give me a bad time about not being with my other tutu friend.  I told them to cheer extra loud for her.

Finally, at mile 23, we saw an end to the trail.  I was so excited.  I was happy enough to be off it that I was almost looking forward to the hill.  Jay ran on ahead to get a drink from his wife and high fives from his 6(!) kids.  Then we headed up the hill and up some more.  The miles finally caught up to poor Jay and he slowed to a walk but still had very encouraging things to say as I went on ahead of him.  Somewhere between mile 24 and 25, I ran into (no, not literally) my mom. I though she was going to be at the top of the hill but she had come down a bit to meet us.  She was a very welcome sight.   I also ran into my slowest pace of the race 10:13!  Yikes, that hill was brutal!

You can see Jay just behind me and Heather only a small distance off. 
My mom ran a bit up the hill with me while trying to keep me from talking to her, even though all I wanted to do was tell her how brutal the hill was. I think she wanted me to conserve my energy.  I tried to figure out if I really was in 3rd place for the women and she thought I was.  There were a few people not too far ahead of me and she thought maybe I could catch them.  I didn't think I could, but told her I'd try.  I didn't.  Well, I did try, but didn't come close to catching anyone.  :)
 She also got some nice shots of Heather as she rounded the hill and headed into the home stretch.

 Miles 25-26 were good because I knew I was almost done.  I tried to have a couple sport beans at mile 25 but I couldn't choke them down... I merely sucked on a couple and spit them out.  There was a little bit more gravel, as if we hadn't had enough and some more (really gentle this time) rolling hills.  As I was running along the final stretches I said to myself, "you never have to do this again if you don't want to".  Then finally the finish line.  I could see the clock had just turned over to 3:49 and I gave it everything I had left (really not much) to ensure I came in under 3:50.  Official time 3:49:23, a 3 minute PR for me... I'll take it!
Seriously who puts the finish line at the top of a hill?  That is just mean! 
Heather finished shortly after me in 3:50:11, a 35 minute marathon PR!! I think she was a bit bummed to come in over 3:50, but she did awesome on a really tough course.
 (Since I posted a picture of Heather drinking, I figure it was only fair to post one of me too.)

 After I did a bit of dry heaving in the bushes and drank copious amounts of water (the only thing available at the finish line) we headed in to check out the awards and the potato bar.  The potatoes and chili did not seem appealing to either one of us and they had given out all the chocolate milk to the half marathoners so we hit up the hotel's restaurant for our own chocolate milk.... which they were kind enough to charge to the room for us.  The awards ceremony was long and kind of boring, they announced the winners of the half marathon and the top two places for the marathon,  then gave out some random prizes to people based on age, ie. oldest guy, youngest guy.  Probably only because I placed third, but I thought it would have at least been good to mention the top 3 for each event.

Overall, it was a tough, tough course.  It was hilly and the gravel was difficult, but it is a race I would consider running again.  There were long sections without any crowd support but the people that were out were great at cheering.  Also, the aid stations were well placed and well stocked.  Their were local cross country kids and other families handing out shot blocks and other forms of aid and all the stations were set up the same way with Gatorade followed by water.  It seemed to be a very well organized race.

I loved wearing the tutu.  It didn't get in my way at all and we got tons and tons of positive cheering attention for wearing them... I would definitely wear it again!  I used KT tape on my hip and knee portion of my IT band as well as the IT Compression Wrap and didn't have a bit of knee pain.  I was super duper happy about that!!

Here are a few more looks at the numbers (in case you hadn't read enough already);

Our splits:

and another look at the elevation profile in case you're having trouble picturing the hills.  :)

A huge thanks to my mom for shuttling us around and playing paparazzi.  It was so awesome to see her popping up all over the course.  Also an enormous thanks to Heather who really kept me going throughout our training plan and during the race.  I learned that running can be fun with other people.  :)  Also, thanks to all of you and your encouraging and kind comments... they really keep me motivated!  Runners are awesome!!


(Just) Trying is for Little Girls said...

1. Love your mom. She is so great.
2. Love the tutu. I still can't believe it didn't bother you. So cool.
3. Hate that you couldn't even get free chocolate milk for third place. Really, who honors the top 2? Top 1 or top 3, come on!
4. If they had given out awards to the top 175 in my last half, I would have got one. Way to go, speedy!

Raina said...

Ah man! This deserves a re-read, but for now CONGRATS! That's an awesome PR and I have always wondered about this course.

Dick said...

I love your mom too! She's pretty amazing! Her only fault is that she favors her kids over her husband...when I did the Salt to Saint relay I saw her at the beginning and the very support in the middle. (I have to admit that I would have done the same thing.)

Good job, Laurie. You're amazing.

Momma K gotzt the runs said...

What an awesome report! You did such a kick booty job! Love the race report, the tutu and your spirit! 3rd place--incredible!!

Amber said...

Congrats on a PR!! I wore a tutu to a Mud Run and loved all the positive energy it seemed to give me and everyone around me! :)

Emz said...

Ok. You. Freaking. Rock.
Killed the tutu.
Killed the marathon.
You're. So. Awesome.

Emz said...

Weird. It cut me off?! Smart blogger. ;)
L --- love all the photos!!

Heather said...

Wow! This is so much better than the race report I would have written! Mine goes something like this...First 11 miles--fast and FUN, followed by 10 miles of gravel--felt like crying, followed by giant hill--felt like dying (but DID NOT walk!), followed by two more miles chanting "must. finish. race." And yet I'd turn around and do it all again! Thanks for a great race (and a great suggestion to run it with tutu power!)

Raina said...

What! Number three! That is awesome! You are on quite a roll, lady...and good at picking the marathon races to do :) . I can't believe they didn't honor the top three though. That's crazy NOT to do. It reminds me that I was so STUPID to stick around at the PRefontaine 10k expecting an award for 3rd OA, but it was only age group awards- three deep in every possible AG-- and then first place. All the while, Levi was hanging out with poopy pants and I was trying to tell my dad it was NOT worth hanging around for. lol

You pick some HARD courses! What a finish line. Jay seems like the perfect distraction, except when you want to pretend you are not even there...:) BOTH you and heather look terrific and very strong. Sorry about the dry heaves! Love reading about how your mom is so supportive. Do you have a spring race in mind?? I enjoy seeing your improvement!

OK...sorry for the long comment :)

runningwifle said...

I just found your blog and saw that you ran this while pregnant! I'm curious as to how it affected your training (if at all)? I've got a couple marathons planned for this year, but am thinking of taking the "see what happens" approach with having a baby as well... you make it seem not so bad!